Sponsors include:Zookal – Providing pizza for tonightAnchor – Providing us with beerIf anyone knows any other organisations that would like to sponsor, please let me know.
About Sydney VR:Meet others around Sydney interested in VR as a hobby or professionally.Talk about the latest in VR and where we think VR might head in the future.Show off what other people have made and try out other people’s work yourself, such as trying out the Oculus Rift.About the Speaker:Chris ZahariaVR enthusiast, work at Zookal as co-founder and CTOInterested in VR since uni, first dabbled into VR when I built a simulation several years back using Sony’s HMZ-T1 HMD, Kinect for body tracking and TrackIR5 for head tracking to play Skyrim in VR. Work was covered by Engadget, Gizmodo, PC World, TheNextWeb.Lately did work combining brain-computer interfacing (BCI) with VR using the Oculus Rift, Razer Hydra and Emotiv EPOC to simulate several learning and a FPS demo using hand tracking and brainwave reading for movement. I’ll show this too during the demos later.
Won’t go into much detail on the history of VR, someone could talk about it in a future meetup.There’s a re-emergence of VR happening in the last few years. Why now though?Hardware getting cheaper thanks to smartphones bringing cost down, such as of screens and other components.Platforms like Kickstarter allowing hardware developers to raise money, which is how Oculus Rift started initially from raising $2.4m.Graphic cards, gesture tracking devices have become powerful and affordable.Game developers interest in developing VR for gaming, gamers starting to want to see VR happening instead of incremental improvements that the latest game consoles have.
A big part of VR’s popularity lately has arguably been due to the Oculus Rift.Back in 2012 Palmer Luckey built the initial prototype of the Rift, pulling off a breakthrough in VR HMDs by creating a more advanced and inexpensive device then anything out there. They listed it on Kickstarter, with developers able to grab a device at $300 a piece. It was very successful, with their funding ending at $2.4 million and thousands of developers soon having one of these devices to work on.Many people since have tried on the Rift and you can see from people’s reactions on YouTube that many people were amazed when they first used it. Oculus have since created a more advanced version of the HMD which will be similar to the consumer one they plan to release this year and have raised $75 million to help them bring VR to the average person.
2 weeks ago CES was on, which is the world’s biggest electronics event for consumers. Lots of interesting news on VR came out this time!Oculus announced their latest prototype of the Rift which has:Higher resolution using 1080p LCDPosition tracking of headLow persistencePeople who tried it out say that it looked a lot more clearer, with more smoothness outputted when moving around. Some say it’s significantly better then the current Rift. The consumer device should be similar to this, which Oculus announced would launch this Winter.
Other devices shown at CES include:Avegant GlyphReflects image on person’s eye using tech called VRD (virtual retina display)720p in each eyeHead trackingGood quality audioThe entire view is not blocked, light will escape into your view. This was intended though.Sony TMZ-T3QCost $1000720p in each eyeHead trackingLooks more like your watching a move in the cinemaTheir focus is more on watching movies, I don’t think this will take off due to its low FOV and high price amongst other factors.
Game developer Valve last week created an apparently very impressive VR demo, with Oculus founder Palmer Luckey saying "Valve's VR tech is the best virtual reality demo in the world right now“ and David Hensley, who tried it out, said the above. Valve’s positional tracking was able to stop people from getting motion sickness, and the headset they used was about as powerful as Oculus’ latest prototype.Valve’s Michael Abrash presented what he and Oculus thought VR HMDs will look like in 2015.Valve also released SteamVR, so people can use the Oculus Rift to navigate through Steam.
Finally, some news I found quite disappointing. Tactical Haptics, which built a device that can simulate weight in games and simulations, failed to reach their Kickstarter goal. Simulating touch + force is an interesting area, but seems like there wasn’t enough interest or belief in it yet though they said they will work on improving the tech and try raising again later on.
Along with head mounted displays, there are other devices that support creating an immersive virtual experience for the user from:Tracking human gestures such as head, hand and body movementRecognising the intention of a person to move, such as moving on the spot but moving forward in the virtual environment.Simulating other senses, such as touch, smell and taste.These are some of the current ones out there that perform gesture recognition:Razer HydraTrack hand movement really accurately, more so then the Kinect and Leap$US100-$US150Microsoft KinectRecognises gestures and has speech recognition built in. Can be hooked up to a computer as well, not just an Xbox.The latest version of the Kinect for Xbox One can recognize gestures closer to the cameras and has a faster response rate along with a higher quality cameraLeap MotionTracks hand gestures more accurately than the old Kinect as it can recognize motions closer to the device.Laptops are starting to come out with these built in.$US79.99
Advanced motion tracking devices are coming out soon too, including:STEM – Hand and body trackingMYO – Hand or leg motion detection using muscle activity and EMG signalsPrioVR – Full body trackingTobii – Eye tracking
Movement tracking is a tricker challenge of VR. Besides several of the gesture trackers mentioned before, there are several other methods to track movement such as:Omni-directional treadmills, like the VirtuixOmni ($US499)Virtual reality hamster ballsEven brain-computer interfaces should accurately allow this one day
Even brain computer interface devices are becoming more affordable to consumers, though those are not yet advanced enough to do more then map a few commands or do some basic 4 directional movement and response rate isn’t quite there for fast paced action like in FPS.Some of the devices out there include:Emotiv EPOC – Reads brainwave activity, along with facial muscle movement and sentiment recognition, such as reading a person’s excitement and frustration levels.Emotiv Insight – Emotiv recently upgraded their device and successfully raised enough on KickStarter to launch some time this yearNeuroSkyMindWave – Another commercially available EEG device.OpenBCI – These guys have open sourced the hardware for others to build apps that can access a person’s brainwaves using EEG. They’re just finishing off their KickStarter campaign this week and are an interesting one to look out for.
Now for tactile feedback, there are quite a few interesting research and early commercial projects looking to get other senses working in virtual environments, such as touch, smell and taste.Aireal – Disney has built a device to simulate the sensation of windTaste simulator – The National University of Singapore recently revealed a taste simulator their researchers are working on. It uses tiny electrodes that heat and cool quickly to simulate the 4 taste sensationsScentScape and Ophone – 2 devices that can simulate smell and can already be used for gaming. ScentScape for example can provide 20 basic scents. You need to continually buy cartridges though for these to emit smell, and they can’t simulate a large amount of different scents yet.Reactive Grip – This device can simulate the sensation of holding an object, with the use of touch and force (weight). It was going to be compatible with the new STEM system coming out, but unfortunately they’re back to R&D for now.
There’s quite a few applications out now using VR, especially in gaming. The game Half Life 2 works with both the Rift and Razer Hydra. Quite a lot of indie developers are creating new games using VR.Surgeons are using VR with gesture tracking to perform surgeries in simulations. Teachers are using VR to teach students in virtual classrooms, and as the tech gets more affordable then students in remote areas will be able to participate too.Probably not too long from now we’ll be able to live out actual movies as if we were there, travel anywhere we want, and work in virtual workplaces with people physically located all around the world. Lots of awesome opportunities out there.
Some of the goals of our meetup would be to:Spread awareness of VR in SydneyHelp people find others to work together on projects or startups around VRThe VR industry is still early and there’s lots still to do before VR reaches the mainstream. We should have every bit of opportunity as those overseas to progress the evolution of VR, whether it is through:Developing for the Rift or other VR devicesBuilding hardwareEntrepreneurs and developers working together to found new start-upsProvide VR related services to other organisationsInvesting in KickStarter projects
For future events, we’ll try to get speakers to come in to talk on different topics.We’ll try to get the top VR people to come along whenever they visit Australia, such as:Technologists includingJaron Lanier (VR inventor), Palmer Luckey (Oculus founder), John Carmack (VR pioneer), Philip Rosedale (Second Life founder)People from organisations like Oculus VR or SixenseAuthors such as William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, Ernest Cline, Tad WilliamsThe meetups will probably happen at most every few months for now and increase in frequency as the VR space heats up.Any one of you can propose meetups too, post up topics, speak on a topic or showcase something and ask for speakers to come in if you know anyone in VR.
Sydney Virtual Reality Meetup - January 2014
Sydney Virtual Reality